“Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” -Maggie Kuhn
Not quite two years ago I walked into a church and it changed my life. I was not saved and I did not find Jesus, I am still an atheist, but to my surprise that is actually OK. Spending time with Unitarian Universalists, and discovering that I am one myself, is one of the greatest things that has happened to me. It has completely changed my life. More on that whole process later. Last year I attended my first Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry Workshop. I had been spearheading the marriage equality push in my home congregation and when marriage equality came to our state I still wanted to be involved.
Yesterday was this year’s annual Issues Workshop. It’s a really cool day where UUs from across the state come together to decide what will be their task force’s priority issue for the year. When you think about activism and the people who affect change you are likely thinking of these people. Of the six task forces (economic justice, environmental protection, immigration, criminal justice reform, and gun violence prevention) this year I had an agenda for the reproductive justice task force. I had already been in touch with the task force chair and laid out my reasons why domestic violence legislation should be a priority issue for the task force. Along with many other things, including an inclusion in the definition of reproduction justice for a safe environment in which to raise children, I cited the passage of a package of six domestic violence bills from the state assembly the week prior. She was on board and asked that I put together a fact sheet and to speak to the task force.
I was nervous all morning. Not only did I have to speak knowledgeably and convincingly about legislation but I was about to speak to people who knew me in one light about a very different part of me. ACLU-NJ executive director, Udi Ofer, was the keynote speaker for the day. After his speech I was so ramped up that I barely felt the nerves anymore. After presenting to the taskforce of around 20 (plus one reproductive justice expert who came in to speak) I fielded questions, some of which I simply didn’t have answers to. The organizations legal director happened to be sitting next to me and he commented to the importance of a couple of the issues I brought up and cited cases he had worked on. After 15 minutes of discussion the task force chair took a vote and it was unanimous that we will take on domestic violence! Currently the issue will be in a research phase but we will be prepared to take action on legislation as it may occur. I almost cried but managed to keep it together.
Already feeling fantastic you can imagine how excited I was when after the meeting I was approached by a university professor to come speak to one of her classes! We will be talking later to confirm and discuss what she wants but I am so excited. It is my first university speaking engagement, hopefully the first of many on this subject.